How to Have a Healthy Argument
To avoid the uglies, we had experts do fight-right makeovers. Here, the rules of engagement and how to fight fair.
1. The fight
Your mom: “I thought you’d be here for the holidays.”
You: (sigh) “Yeah, well, plans do change …”
Your mom: “Your sister is happy to come over. Why do you hate being here so much?”
You: “Why do you always compare me to her?”
Where it went wrong: Mom’s accusatory tone started the fight, says Jennifer Jeanne Patterson, author of 52 Fights: A Newlywed’s Confessionnot to mention that nothing good will ever come from comparing one daughter to another. Low-blow tactics like that are as good as saying “Put up your dukes!” she says.
How to fight right: Mom should choose her words more carefully, Patterson says, and begin with a positive. “I’d love to see you at the holidays” is something said out of love, and it encourages a response that acknowledges the mother’s feelings. Or, the daughter could preemptively express regret and say, “I feel terrible, I really want to be there,” says Deborah Tannen, PhD, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. “Any time you can stop the argument before it starts, that’s always smart.”